Osotimehin’s attitude toward female gender began from home – Wife
…Joins FG, UN to celebrate life of late UNFPA icon
ABUJA – The attitude of late former Minister of Health and Executive-Director, United Nations Population Fund, UNFPA, Prof Babatunde Osotimehin, towards female gender began from the way he treated females in his family, widow of the late UN Chief, Mrs Olufunke Osotimehin, revealed in Abuja, Friday, describing her late husband as loving, caring and a quintessential leader and father.
Speaking at a memorial service organized by the Minister of Health, Prof Isaac Adewole, for the late reproductive health advocate at the Shehu Yar’ Adua Conference Centre, Mrs Osotimehin said she took solace in the legacies left behind by her deceased spouse.
She was also at a similar service organized by the United Nations system in Nigeria, comprising UNFPA, United Nations Children Fund, UNICEF, among others at the UN Building in the nation’s capital.
At the minister’s event, Mrs Osotimehin said her late husband proposed to her when she was 21 years, and they got married two years later. Blessed with five children, she said her family was headed by a father who was always willing to ensure he touch every life that came his way positively, and always wanted everyone to fulfil their potentials, no matter their predicaments.
“I speak as the wife of Babatunde Osotimehin. I didn’t work with him, I lived with him. And, he was a very kind-hearted person. He swept me off my feet at the age of 21, and we got married two years later. To God’s glory, we have many children, and we have many grandchildren. He was a kind man, because there are some people who are very good outside and they are horrible inside their homes. I testify Babatunde was a very good, caring, loving, protective person. He cared much for me, he cared much for the children, and as busy as he was, he found time even to teach his children when they were in primary and secondary schools; and of course to guide them in subsequent years.
“He helped us through his prayers, through his fasting. He was generous to all, to his immediate and extended family, even the people he didn’t know. I always chided our daughters, telling them ‘you can’t do this, when you get married, you can’t do this,’ and he would say ‘no, I am not training my children only to be wives. Yes, you may teach them how to behave when they get married, but, I am training them for life, how to live as responsible, independent, motivated females in the society.
“His attitude to the female gender started from home. He allowed me to be myself. If we argued about anything, he respected me, respected my views. Being a man, I had my say, he had his way. But, he was a good man at the domestic front,” Mrs Osotimehin said.
Former Health Minister, Prof Eyitabo Lambo, said at the event that he knew the late Professor of Clinical Pathology 50 years back; when they were both students of the University of Ibadan and that they sustained that relationship till the deceased died on June 4th this year.
“When I was appointed Minister, our relationship deepened, and by the grace of God, as somebody had earlier said, we were able to make some impacts in public health, and on HIV AIDS…
“He told me in 1998 that ultimately he would like a job in the UN system, he did not only get that, in 2012 or thereabouts, he was appointed the chief executive of a UN agency. I think it is not just mere luck; it must be the purpose of God for his life. I think members of the family should be consoled by the tributes pouring in…”
Minister of Health, said at the service which had past and present Ministers of Health in attendance and other leading figures in the sector, that late Osotimehin was a blessing to the world. Osotimehin, the pioneer head of Nigeria’s response to HIV/AIDS epidemic, the National Agency for the Control of AIDS, NACA, was born on 6th February 1949. He was 68 years.
“I think what is best for me in Prof Osotimehin is that as we mourn, we should also take solace in all the things that have been said about him,” the health minister said.
He noted that his humility and contributions to human welfare would make his family proud of him for life.
He said Osotimehin’s common quote was that “no woman should die giving birth’ and that ‘we should stop treating women as if they are disposables.’ He was strong believer in the role of men in sexual and reproductive health and rights. When he started the Sexual Reproductive Health in Ibadan, proudly Nigerian, proudly African, proudly human, he believed in the concept of humanity.”
The Minister also said at the UN Building event that Osotimehin spent his last few years talking about demographic dividends, and why Nigeria should adopt more demographic policies in this respect. “He advocated for increased investment in young person and aggressive family planning strategy, empowerment of women and girls, and actually, he worked with me to bring the FP 2020 reference book to Nigeria in October.
“The last meeting I had in London two days ago was through his instrumentality. He invited me, and unfortunately, that outing turned out to be something held in his memory,” he stated.
He said the legacies the deceased left behind would live forever, and that the nation is proud of his outstanding legacies.
Minister of State for Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire said Osotimehin’s name was often mentioned at the Ministry of Health, “when during his tenure as I am told, the first National Strategic Health Development Plan that steered health agenda during the latter part of the past seven years was launched. He ensured a cordial relationship between the ministry and legislative arm of government, and coordinated the sector’s stakeholders to bring primary health care to focus.”
Similarly, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama said at the UN Building service that the gathering was not to mourn, but to celebrate “a great life, a great Nigerian life, a day for illustrious son of Nigeria, the Minister of Health, who gave his utmost service, not only to our fatherland, but to humanity. Without equivocation, any nation on earth would have been immensely proud to have Prof Babatunde Osotimehin as one of its own.
“And, Nigeria is indeed very proud. It was therefore not surprising that the international community embraced him when he was appointed Executive-Director, United Nations Population Fund in 2012.”
He said since he died on the 4th of last month, the narrative about his contribution to global health has been quite wonderful.
He went on: ”Prof. etched his imprints in the annals of Nigeria’s health sector, when as the Minister of Health, he mobilized all the ministries of the 36 states of the federation to develop a national health plan showcased on primary health care. It was also under his leadership that medical institutions and Nigeria were obliged to observe the law which requires them to treat accident and gunshot victims before any other consideration. Indeed, he was at the forefront of polio eradication from affected areas in Nigeria.”
Country Representative, UNFPA, Diene Keita, said: “For all of us at UNFPA, the reality that our Executive Director is no longer with us, and can never come to visit us, or that we can never come to seek his wise counsels is something that is too difficult for us to come to terms with…
“Beyond his determination to see a world where no woman dies giving life, and all young people fulfil their potentials, at every point of his life, he left us with no doubt that the staff of the organization were very special to him. He put the interest of others before his.”
An Anglican Church cleric, Ven. Benjamin Idume, said life is a gift from God, and that life itself is an opportunity. He urged Nigerians and people around the world to emulate the virtues of late Osotimehin.